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Capitol Correspondence - 03.03.17

Verma Inches Closer to Confirmation as CMS Administrator

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On March 2, the Senate Finance Committee voted (13-12) to advance Seema Verma’s confirmation to the full Senate for consideration. The vote came a day after it was announced that Brian Neale, a former healthcare policy director for then-Governor Mike Pence in Indiana, would be the new director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services. Verma also worked in Indiana as a Medicaid consultant developing the “Healthy Indiana Plan”. 

During her confirmation hearings, Verma said that she was open to considering block grants or per capita caps as a way of creating efficiency and saving money on the Medicaid system. (See WICs article, “Senate Finance Committee Holds Confirmation Hearing on CMS Administrator Nominee,” February 17, 2017.) Written questions and answers from Senators to Verma were published after her last confirmation hearing (attached), and include this exchange regarding HCBS:

Question (from Senator Casey):

4. Many people with disabilities want to work and can do so with the services only available through Medicaid, to help them work. These services include supported employment for people with mental health disabilities or personal care attendants for those with intellectual or physical disabilities. Without these services, many people with disabilities will be unable to work. How will you ensure that a person with a disability, mental health, intellectual, physical, sensory, or any other type of disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, has access to the services currently available through Medicaid? 

Answer: Our goal is to ensure access to affordable, quality healthcare for all citizens. This, of course, includes people with disabilities who depend on Medicaid. Towards this end, I support the principles of community integration, beneficiary autonomy in decision making, and person centered planning articulated in CMS’ approach to Home and Community Based Services and the HCBS Settings Rule (with a compliance date in March 2019). If confirmed as CMS Administrator, I would rely on these principles in making decisions appropriate to CMS’ role in administering Medicaid and working with Congress to implement and support efforts that help people work.